Major depression, also known as major depressive disorder, is a mental disorder in which the patient feels hopeless. It’s normal for people to feel hopeless from time to time, due to stress and other extenuating circumstances, but major depression is more severe. This feeling hopelessness and go on for months, and even years, and requires treatment.
Causes of Major Depression
Researchers are yet to determine a specific cause of major depression, but a collection of event seem to be the most likely cause. Changes of certain chemicals levels in the brain, genes and stressful events can all lead to major depression. Although known to run in families, it can also affect someone without any family history and may even target kids and teenagers. Stressful events play a major role in developing into major depression disorder. Traumatic events such as the death of a loved one, a divorce, or sexual abuse can trigger major depression.
Major Depression Symptoms
A person suffering from major depression may experience a variety of symptoms which may or may not include a strong feeling of sadness. Other symptoms include:
- Restlessness or anxiety
- Loss of appetite
- Lack of energy, troubled sleep patterns and inability to concentrate
- Isolation and loss of pleasure in previously cherished activities
- Causing harm to self or others
- Inability to concentrate in school or on the job
- Suicidal thoughts
- Seclusion, anxiety and decreased academic performance
The symptoms of major depression among the elderly are a little different. In addition to the symptoms of, the following symptoms may also be present:
- Delayed body/reactions
Diagnosis of Major Depression
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) has set out a set of criterion in order to be diagnosed with major depression. A person suffering from major depression will generally show five or more of the symptoms below for more than two weeks:
- Continual depressed state for most of the day (especially during the mornings)
- Loss of interest in day to day activities
- Loss of weight without loss of appetite or exercise
- Insomnia or hypersomnia
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Lack of concentration or altered thought process
- Suicidal thoughts
Health professionals will generally run a number of tests in order to eliminate any other potential causes of the change in ones mood.
Major Depression Treatment
To treat a patient suffering from major depression, a drug regime combined with supportive psychological therapy has proven to be most effective. When combined together, they can greatly reduce the patients level of depression.
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
These are the first line of treatment for anyone suffering from major depression. Only a health professional can determine whether this is the best treatment option for you, as it can carry some side effects.
Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
While SSRIs affect the functioning of serotonin alone, SNRIs help in the treatment of major depression by affecting the levels of two neurotransmitters, one serotonin and another called norepinephrine. SNRIs cause less side effects as oppose to SSRIs.
Often more effective than tricyclic antidepressants, atypical antidepressants help those patients who suffer from insomnia since they result in sedation. Usually another antidepressant is used along with these.
Although quite effective, a psychiatrist never prescribes tricyclic antidepressants for the treatment of major depression disorder unless milder drugs like selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors have failed to show any positive response. This is due to the fact that tricyclic antidepressants can have more severe and long lasting side effects.
Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)
A doctor prescribes MAOIs only and only when all other medications have failed. These are known to cause dangerous drug reactions, and can cause severe side effects.
Counselling, whether combined with antidepressant medications or not, has proven to be quite effective in many cases. Psychotherapy helps people in dealing with their circumstances and prognosis. It allows patients to speak their mind and explain how they are feeling. One of the most effective and commonly used types of psychotherapy for the treatment of major depression is cognitive behaviour therapy.
Making a few simple changes in lifestyle routines such as getting adequate hours of sleep, eating healthy foods and exercising regularly can work wonders for many patients. Exercise is also known to increase the serotonin levels in one’s body. Some studies claim that dark chocolate also helps in curing major depression disorder since it is rich in neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, and also contains MAOIs.
Electroconvulsive therapy is generally the last resort. It works by sending an electric current through the patient’s brain.